Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/15

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11
The Present Danger.

of carrying on the government with one House, that shortly before his death he revived, after a fashion, the Upper House, limiting, however, its members to a few of his own adherents. Meanwhile the country had become thoroughly disgusted with the condition to which it had been brought by the overthrow of the ancient Constitution, and was weary of the military despotism which had followed the abolition of the monarchy and the suppression of the House of Lords. As those two disastrous measures had been adopted at the same time, so the reversal of them was destined to take place simultaneously.

In April, 1660, upon the meeting of a new Parliament under the auspices of General Monk, the Peers reassembled of their own accord in the House of Lords, and no opposition was made to their doing so, although the ordinance dissolving that House remained in form unrepealed. As is well known, the restoration of the monarchy followed within a few weeks, and legislation by King, Lords, and Commons, which had been suspended for ten years, was permanently resumed, to the intense relief and satisfaction of all classes of the community.

The present danger.But, it may be said, it is unreasonable to conclude that because the overthrow of the House of Lords was followed by the degradation of the House of Commons in the seventeenth century it would necessarily be attended with a similar result in the present day. Possibly it might be unreasonable, if there were not actually ominous signs to be discerned, which unmistakably support that conclusion. It would be an insult to the memory of Oliver Cromwell to draw a parallel between him and our present Prime Minister. Great as were his faults, Cromwell was an undoubted statesman, under whose firm and straightforward policy the name of England was respected, her flag honoured, and her counsels received with deference throughout the civilised world. But Mr. Gladstone resembles the Protector in his impatience of any assembly which does not implicitly follow his behests. We have seen how Cromwell, after overthrowing the Upper House, proceeded to attack and overawe the House of Commons. We shall hereafter have occasion to notice three distinct blows which Mr. Gladstone during the last fifteen years has levelled at the authority of the House of Lords; and he, at the same time, makes no secret of his desire to alter the procedure and curtail the liberties of the House of Commons. Already, two years ago, we have had the Parliamentary session adjourned to the autumn for that special